Leaders vs Managers – Doc Emmett Brown Style

Back to the Future is such a great movie series, funny, exciting, and top-notch acting. Christopher Lloyd, an amazing actor, gave the best portrayal of Doc Emmett Brown, the crazy Einstein-esque professor. Doc Brown is a stable genius to the nth degree, brilliant, zany, and lived his life pursuing his passion and living life to the fullest.

Doc Brown also had an uncanny knack for helping a high school kid learn about life, consequences for action, and impulse control. Marty McFly was a kid with a few problems, not overly popular, not confident, and, let’s be honest, his closest friend was a crazy middle-aged guy.

But as crazy as he was, the Doc was an amazing leader for many reasons. The first, and most important, is that like William Wallace who we discussed in the last article, both the Braveheart version and the real version, is that Doc Brown oozed passion for what he did. He was driven by it to the point of neglecting almost everything else in society. He had a vision that he was completely focused on achieving, and he stopped at nothing to achieve it.

But what does this have to do with leadership? Doc Brown also recognized the areas he needed help. While stealing plutonium from terrorists was clearly well within his skills, he needed help from someone to help and worked to develop someone. He didn’t pick someone he could clone, and he chose someone with a completely different set of skills to his own. He knew the mission required something different to the skills he possessed, and he chose a kid he knew would rise to the occasion when trouble came knocking.

Doc Brown helped Marty showcase his ability to think critically, problem solve, be solution oriented, and also learn from mistakes. The story (sorry if it’s a spoiler, but you’ve had 30-odd years to watch it) ends with McFly showing that he had not only learned courage, but also wisdom. Doc Brown developed a rough edged kid with no particularly redeeming features, and turned him into a young man who was able to save the world.

Here are the three takeaways for today:

1 – Not all leaders have a sword, or even a title. Some, in fact may, leaders “just are.”

2 – Leaders develop others. They don’t create clones, and they don’t pick the brightest stars. They pick the people with potential and make them the best version of “them” that they can be.

3 – Leaders don’t always have tons of followers. They can, but in these days of social media, having a lot of followers doesn’t equate to strong leadership either.

Sometimes we are developed, or develop others simply just by “being.” There is no specific or recognized path or plan to be a leader. It just happens, and people are developed as visions become reality. That is the mark of a true leader.

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